Picks and Pans Review: Cutting Their Own Groove

updated 08/05/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/05/1991 01:00AM

Big Daddy

For the most part, novelty records have the lasting appeal of the lambada. The first time you play them is also the last, because the joke, whatever it might be, gets old very quickly. Let's face it. When was the last time you put on a "Weird Al" Yankovic tape?

That's what makes Big Daddy a novel novelty. This album is something you won't be embarrassed to listen to six months after you buy it. The conceit here, as it was on the band's previous two records, is that Big Daddy was a band taken hostage in Laos 30 years ago. When rescued in 1989, they found modern artists doing versions of their songs. To redress their grievances, they began recording '50s-style versions of today's pop hits.

This description isn't particularly funny. What Big Daddy does is, though. On Cutting Their Own Groove, Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" is sung to a tune that sounds suspiciously like "Johnny B. Goode." Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" becomes "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Madonna's "Like a Virgin" turns into "Venus." Best of all, the band transforms the Prince-penned Sinéad O'Connor hit, "Nothing Compares 2 U," into an uncanny Little Richard imitation.

The joke here works for two reasons. First, Big Daddy knows irony, rendering a song in a way that is the opposite of what the artist intended. George Michael's tedious dance number "I Want Your Sex," for example, becomes a slow-dance tune that exposes how dumb the song really is.

Second, the music is good. It's like turning on an oldies station whose signal overlaps with a Top 40 outlet. Try the album in small doses for a taste of rock and roll in its purest, most enjoyable form. The music would work even without the jokes. (Rhino)

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